Are you seeking to maximize your job opportunities and keep your career in tip-top shape?  I’d likely assume so, if you’re reading a blog like this, and if that’s the case there’s one strategy that can be pretty useful to follow — even though most job hunters don’t generally think of it.  It involves constantly checking on the credentials of your COMPETITION to see what you can learn (and potentially borrow) from them in terms of the skill sets they possess, the keywords they use, and how they go about presenting and differentiating themselves.

Virtually all companies engage in this kind of competitive intelligence-gathering, I can assure you.  And as you’re probably sick of hearing me yak about on this blog, whatever strategies companies generally use to sell/market themselves are ones that individual job hunters can potentially benefit from adopting, as well.  Businesses have been at the “sink or swim” game a lot longer than the rest of us, after all, and we can learn a lot from them as the labor market grows increasingly competitive and has started to follow a set of similar dynamics.

In the old days, however, gathering and studying the resumes of your competitors was a pretty tough thing to accomplish.  You had to get pretty creative, as was the case with a brother-in-law of mine, who literally ran a “bogus advertisement” in the Sunday newspaper back in the late eighties so that he could collect, review, and analyze all the resumes of the people he was up against for accounting jobs.  And the gambit apparently worked.  Once he saw the credentials he was up against, and how his competitors were presenting themselves, he retooled his own materials accordingly and suddenly ended up landing a lot more interviews!

In today’s world, we don’t have to be quite as sneaky.  With a few simple steps on LinkedIn you can easily configure the system to forward you the resume info (or an approximation, in the form of a LinkedIn profile) of anybody else who works in your same professional field — so that you can monitor these profiles from time to time, looking for fresh ideas, keywords, and approaches that might help you boost your own profile’s effectiveness to a greater degree.

How do you do this?  All you have to do is go to LinkedIn’s “Advanced People Search” page and run a search using whatever combination of the Title, Keywords, Location, and Industries boxes comes closest to matching your own professional background.  Then, once you’ve run the search and verified that the appropriate types of people turn up, hit the “Save” button at the top of the results window and set up a daily, weekly, or monthly alert using the drop-down options provided.  It’s a piece of cake, and going forward, you’ll start to receive periodic e-mails outlining any new LinkedIn users who are in your professional area — or who have recently reworked their profile in a way that closely matches your criteria.

In my case, for example, I’ve got an ongoing search set up to alert me any time anybody with the words “career” or “outplacement” in their title appears on the Seattle scene.  And while I usually don’t see anything terribly new under the sun, in terms of the individuals who turn up and how they market themselves on the system, it’s still a good exercise that helps me keep tabs on who’s who’s in my field — as far as the Seattle area is concerned — and how they might be promoting their capabilities in a way that’s similar or different than my own.

Is this step essential to modern career and job search success?  Nah, probably not.  But given how quickly one can fall behind the curve in terms of industry buzzwords today, and how easily one can set up this kind of competitive intelligence “sweep” using the LinkedIn interface, it’s not the worst tactic for many professionals to consider adding into their repertoire, either!